[News] Make No Mistake: There is a media blockade against Venezuela

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Mon Apr 24 11:00:44 EDT 2017


https://venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/13070


  Make No Mistake: There is a media blockade against Venezuela

By Rachael Boothroyd Rojas – Venezuelanalysis.com , April 23rd 2017
------------------------------------------------------------------------

Venezuela is in flames. Or at least parts of it is.

Since April 4th, opposition militants have been carrying out targeted 
acts of violence, vandalism and arson, as well as deliberately clashing 
with security forces in an attempt to plunge the country into total 
chaos and forcefully remove the elected socialist government. It is the 
continuation of an 18 year effort to topple the Bolivarian revolution by 
any means necessary — although you may have seen it miraculously recast 
in the mainstream media as “promoting a return to democracy” in the country.

A catalogue of the violence over the last 18 days is shocking – schools 
have been ransacked, a Supreme Court building has been torched, an air 
force base attacked, while public transport, health and veterinary 
facilities have been destroyed. At least 23 people have been left dead, 
with many more injured. In one of the most shocking cases of right-wing 
violence, at around 10pm on April 20th, women, children and over 50 
newborn babies had to be evacuated by the government from a public 
maternity hospital which came under attack from opposition gangs.

Anywhere else in the western world, this would have given way to 
horrified international and national calls for an end to the violence, 
and for the swift prosecution of those responsible – making it all the 
more scandalous that these incidents have at best been ignored, and at 
worst totally misrepresented by the international press. Instead, those 
tasked with providing the public with unbiased reporting on 
international affairs have opted to uncritically parrot the Venezuelan 
opposition’s claims that the elected government is violently repressing 
peaceful protests, and holding it responsible for all deaths in 
connection with the demonstrations so far.

This narrative cannot be described as even a remotely accurate 
interpretation of the facts, and so it is important to set the record 
straight.

  *

    To date, three people (two protesters and one bystander) have been
    killed by state security personnel, who were promptly arrested and
    in two cases indicted.

  *

    A further five people have been directly killed by opposition
    protesters, while one person has died as an indirect result of the
    opposition roadblocks in Caracas (Ricarda Gonzalez, 89, who suffered
    from a CVA and was prevented from getting to a hospital).

  *

    Five people have been shot in separate incidents near protests but
    under unclear circumstances. One of these victims was shot by an
    alleged opposition supporter from a high rise building, although the
    perpetrator’s political affiliation is yet to be confirmed.

  *

    Nine protesters appear to have died as a result of their own actions
    (at least nine were electrocuted in the recent looting of a bakery).

A cursory look at the reality reveals that the government is clearly not 
responsible for the majority of these deaths. However, to paraphrase a 
remark recently made by Venezuelan author Jose Roberto Duque, the “truth 
has suddenly become useless”.

The media has failed to go into too much detail surrounding the exact 
circumstances of these deaths; precisely because the truth presents a 
serious obstacle to their narrative that all these people were killed 
during pro-democracy peaceful protests at the repressive hands of the 
authoritarian regime. This narrative isn’t just overly simplistic; it 
distorts the reality on the ground and misinforms international audiences.

Take this deliberately misleading paragraph from an article written by 
Nicholas Casey, the New York Time’s latest propaganda writer for the 
opposition.

“Protesters demanding elections and a return to democratic rule jammed 
the streets of Caracas and other Venezuelan cities on Wednesday. 
National Guard troops and government-aligned militias beat crowds back 
with tear gas, rubber bullets and other weapons, and at least three 
people were killed, according to human rights groups and news reports.” 
<https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/19/world/americas/venezuela-caracas-maduro-protests.html>

Casey opted to omit the fact that none of those three deaths has so far 
been attributed to security forces, and one of the victims was an army 
sergeant killed by protesters themselves. Moreover, those on the 
receiving end of the “tear gas and rubber bullets” are not quite the 
“peaceful protesters” he so disingenuously implies. Anyone in the east 
of the city on April 19th, when both opposition and pro-government 
forces marched, could see how opposition supporters gathered in total 
freedom in Plaza Francia in Altamira, even buying anti-government 
t-shirts, caps, and purchasing ice-creams 
<https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fVVExLzJ3gg>, and were able to march 
along the main highway linking the east of the city to the west.

Police “repression” has occurred in two specific scenarios. Firstly, 
when opposition gangs have set-up burning barricades and carried out 
violent acts of vandalism on the streets, including the targeting of 
public institutions – actions deliberately aimed at provoking photo-op 
worthy clashes with security forces. In the second instance, it has 
occurred when opposition marchers have attempted to cross a police line 
blocking them from getting to the working class municipality of El 
Libertador in the west of the city – where government support is 
traditionally concentrated. Again, this action is a deliberate attempt 
to provoke clashes with security forces and their supporters by the 
opposition, who are well aware that they have not been granted 
permission to march into El Libertador since a short-lived 
opposition-led coup in 2002, triggered by an anti-government march 
diverted towards Miraflores Presidential Palace in the west that left 19 
dead by opposition sniper-fire.

It is hard to see how the police would not respond to these violent 
actions in a similar way, or even more violently, in the rest of the 
world. I can only imagine what would happen if armed and violent 
protesters consistently tried to march on the White House in Washington, 
or on No. 10 Downing Street in London. What if they assaulted police 
lines outside the White House, or attacked hospitals and looted 
businesses in London? Not only would they not be granted permission to 
continue, but protesters would most likely be shot, or end up in jail 
under anti-terrorism legislation for a very long time. But in Venezuela, 
the opposition can rely on its carte blanche from the mainstream press 
as its get out of jail card.

Needless to say, details of the undemocratic actions of opposition 
leaders and their supporters – ranging from these latest attacks to 
support for a violent coup in 2002 – are glaringly absent from virtually 
all news reports. This is despite the fact that the opposition’s current 
protest leaders – Julio Borges, Henrique Capriles Radonski, Henry Ramos 
Allup and Leopoldo Lopez – were active players in the 2002 coup.

The above article by Casey is a patent attempt to mislead the public 
over the dynamic on the ground in Venezuela. But unfortunately this is 
not just a case of one isolated news agency. The UK’s Guardian, for 
instance,provided its readers with an image gallery of the opposition’s 
April 19th march and “ensuing violence” 
<https://www.theguardian.com/world/gallery/2017/apr/19/violence-after-anti-government-march-in-caracas-in-pictures>, 
but failed to acknowledge that a pro-government march of similar size, 
if not greater, was also held the same day. They simply erased the 
actions of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people. Whichever 
news agency you check, be it the BBC, the Washington Post, CNN, or any 
other corporate outlet, you will find the same, uniform consensus in 
their Venezuela coverage. There are no words to describe this state of 
affairs other than a total media blockade.

The last time the country witnessed unrest on this scale was in 2014, 
when opposition militants again unsuccessfully tried to force the “exit” 
of President Nicolas Maduro using similar tactics, leading to the deaths 
of 43 people. The majority of those victims were innocent passersby 
caught in the violence or state security personnel, who were given the 
somewhat impossible task (just like today) of somehow refraining from 
responding with violence to people who are deliberately trying to 
provoke, maim and kill them.

While protests in 2014 were a response to violent unrest headed by the 
country’s right-wing student movement, this year’s commenced at the 
beginning of April after the Supreme Court issued a ruling granting the 
court temporary powers to assume the legislative functions of the 
National Assembly. It came in response to the Venezuelan parliament 
having been declared “in contempt of court” for more than six months, 
after the opposition refused to remove three of its lawmakers under 
investigation for electoral fraud in violation of a Supreme Court order. 
This is much like the current legal case hanging over the thirty 
Conservative MPs in the UK. The only difference in Venezuela is that the 
legislators were suspended from being sworn into parliament pending the 
results of the investigations. The opposition immediately hit out at the 
ruling, declaring it an attempted “coup” by the government that had come 
out of nowhere. The media swallowed this version of events hook, line 
and sinker. Although the ruling was overturned almost straightaway, the 
opposition took to the streets denouncing a “rupture of the 
constitutional order”.

This soon morphed into a hodgepodge of ultimatums which have dominated 
the opposition’s agenda since it won control of the country’s National 
Assembly (one of the five branches of the Venezuelan government) in 
December 2015, promising to have deposed the national government “within 
six months” – something beyond the power of Venezuela’s legislative 
branch. These demands include the release of what they call “political 
prisoners”, the opening-up of a “humanitarian channel” for receiving 
international aid and, most importantly, immediate regional and general 
elections. The street protests were an unmissable opportunity for the 
opposition, which was suffering from steadily decreasing popularity 
following an entire year of having squandered its legislative majority 
in parliament.

Evidently, long term strategy is not the opposition’s strong point. 
History testifies to the fact that they tend to go for maximum amount of 
damage in the minimum amount of time, no matter the cost. This brings us 
to why this kind of violence, which has been employed several times 
throughout the last 18 years by Venezuela’s well-seasoned opposition, is 
once again happening at this moment. If the government is so unpopular, 
as the opposition claims it is, why not just wait for the presidential 
elections in 2018 for their time to shine?

At this point it should be clear that the opposition’s only goal, far 
from promoting a “return” to democracy, is to step right over it. They 
want to remove the elected government more than a year ahead of 
scheduled elections. But they don’t want to stop there. As one 
opposition marcher told me on Wednesday: “Get your stuff together 
Maduro, because you’re going to jail”. The opposition’s goal is the 
total annihilation of Chavismo.

Whatever the government’s many errors and faults over the past four 
years under the leadership of Nicolas Maduro, progressives across the 
globe have an obligation to defend it against the opposition's onslaught 
and the international media's blockade. The alternative is the same 
savage neoliberalism - currently being mercilessly unleashed by Brazil’s 
unelected government - which previously squeezed blood from the entire 
continent throughout the 1980s and 1990s.

The slogan “No Volveran” (they shall not return) has never been more urgent.

-- 
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